A man’s gotta eat

My whole life for the past few months has been about work: Go to work, come home, eat dinner, open the laptop, do more work, sleep (not enough), wake up still thinking about work. Repeat.

I’ve still managed to get some pretty good meals into me though, and with good friends too.

A few weeks ago Nellie and I went to Rodney’s for the first time with a bunch of colleagues. It was a fun night, but a funny thing happened too: our server and I slowly came to the realization that we went to Dalhousie at the same time, lived in the same residence, and played intramural basketball against one another. Small world.

Not long after I met up with my buddy Pat, in town from Milwaukee, at the Monk’s Table.

Earlier this week Nellie and I went to an Ontario Wine Society event at Barque Butcher Bar. We tasted several Pinots from a single vineyard (the Lowrey vineyard in St. David’s ON) but made by four different wineries: Bachelder, Leaning Post, Adamo, and Five Rows (who own the vineyard). Barbecue isn’t what you’d normally think of as a wine pairing, but it was damned tasty. If I find myself out around Roncy again I’ll definitely find my way back there.

Last night we reprised our recent meal at NAO, this time with T-Bone and The Sof. It was even more epic than the first one: a ton of great starters, three delicious steaks (order of deliciousness: the swinging rib Canadian prime; the David Blackmore wagyu rump; the bone-in US prime) and sides, and some outstanding wine. The sommelier (who remembered us from last time) picked a couple of bottles that weren’t on the list, and both were tremendous: a Babosa Negra from the Canary Islands, and a Forefront Cab Sauv from California.


Cover photo from the Barque site


Busy week

I mean, they’re pretty much ALL busy at this point because of work, but this one was busy because of extra-curriculars.

On Sunday Nellie and I joined a bunch of people in a private suite at the Rogers Cup women’s tennis finals. I had really hoped to watch Serena Williams dismantle someone, but she had lost a day earlier in an upset to Belinda Bencic. Still, we weren’t going to turn down the chance to sit in a suite and watch world-class tennis, so we took an extravagantly-priced uberSelect up to York University and drank cold Pilsner Urquell in the shade. In the end, Bencic won the tournament while I was in the bathroom; her opponent, Simona Halep, conceded due to injury while I was peeing some Urquell. Boo-urns.

On Monday I met some vendors for a late dinner at The Chase, since they seemed particularly interested in seafood. I have no great love for fish myself, but it was about the visitors to Toronto, not to me. I’d underestimated the place though — the food was outstanding, and our server was terrific. I had a few glasses of Vouvray, an octopus + chorizo starter, one half of the parmesan-crusted halibut for two, part of our bottle of Norm Hardie chardonnay, and a forkful of each of the three desserts our server brought: chocolate, lime, and strawberry/rhubarb.

The next night I had a meeting at Beerbistro (hey, I didn’t pick it…it’s next to this guy’s office) where I bumped into the same gentlemen from the previous evening. I’d mentioned it to them, and they decided to conduct all their meetings that day from the bar. I stayed for two, then walked around the corner for an impromptu drink meeting back at The Chase. Well…the Fish & Oyster bar downstairs.

On Thursday, after a quick dinner at Monk’s Table we walked to Boxcar Social for — and I swear I didn’t just dream this — a bourbon and chocolate tasting. Arranged by Tipsy Teachers, with bourbon selected by @BourbonThing and chocolate made by Chocosol, we tried (after a little chilled drinking chocolate) four squares of chocolate paired with four bourbons:

  • 75% cacao “Darkness” chocolate + Basil Hayden’s
  • 82% chocolate with raw vanilla + Elijah Craig 12
  • 5-chili bullet chocolate + Maker’s Mark 46
  • Raw-coffee bean chocolate + Four Roses single barrel

I learned last night why I like bourbons such as Four Roses (even this one, a 100-proof) and Basil Hayden’s: they have a much higher percentage of rye. So there you go: delicious, AND I learned something.

Nellie went camping on Friday, and so I, mercifully, did absolutely nothing.

George Howell / Guatemala Puerto Verde: Cocoa, Apple, Panela

The plan last night was to keep it simple.

We tried, we really did.

We stopped in at Monk’s Table after work for dinner and a pint. That turned into dinner and three pints. So, okay. A little more than planned, but still under control.

The weather was perfect when we left, so we decided to walk at least down to Rosedale station before getting on the subway. That led us right past Boxcar Social, which I’ve been telling Nellie about. We stopped in; my plan was only to have an espresso to wake up a little. I was soon enticed by something their offer of a Whiskey Tango: two pairings of espresso and bourbon. Uh…HOW HAVE I NOT HEARD ABOUT THIS BEFORE??!?!!?!?

The first espresso was unbelievable: a lightly roasted Guatemalan that featured everything I love about Central American coffee. It was followed by half an ounce of Blanton’s original bourbon, which sort of became my new favourite on the spot. Then, after a little water, I got into the next espresso, which was Kenyan, and it reminded me that I tend to not like Kenyan coffee. That was followed by (if I remember right) Baker’s 7. That was followed by a glass of Evan Williams while Nellie drank some kind of weird small-cask Oban called “Little Bay”. And then THAT was followed by a Dieu Du Ciel Aphrodite. Then we lazy-cabbed home.

So it turned into a whole thing. I feel surprisingly okay this morning, especially considering I woke up at 6am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Let’s see if I’m in any way productive though…

Photo by Vera & Jean-Christophe, used under Creative Commons license

Skills like this

Yesterday on my way home I decided to pop into The Monk’s Table, since it’s close to my new office. Plus, a friend works there and I wanted to say hi. Eventually Nellie left work and joined me to celebrate our fresh new vacation.

We had a great time. I drank a La Chouffe, a Maisel’s Weisse Dunkel, and most of an Ommegang BPA before Nellie arrived. Dinner arrived — spicy mussels for Nellie, a pork-wrapped-in-bacon-and-stilton-crumbs (!) special for me — which I had with a Fuller’s Black Cab Stout, and and Affligem Blond to wrap up. The food was fantastic, and I like the Euro-focused contrast to the virtually-all-Ontario list just down the hill at the Rebel House.

I noticed something too, watching our friend work. Even though it got incredibly busy in there last night there were only three staff working — one upstairs, one downstairs, and one (our friend) behind the bar — and they handled everything. We sat at the bar and ended up observing how our friend managed the evening. A bartender who’s really on their game is fun to watch: pouring two drinks at once, taking an order yelled to her from the other end of the bar, already scanning the opposite end to predict when she’d need to get down there, greeting people who’d walked in the front…it was orchestration. You see it with really good bartenders/servers/hosts (like the mutual friend of said bartender, who’d introduced us), and it’s part of the reason we like to sit at the bar rather than a table.

I’m always impressed when people are so good at their job that the immediate movements (or words) seem automatic, but you can tell their brain is already two steps ahead.  I saw something similar the previous evening when I watched an old AV Undercover video. Andy Stack’s drumming always seems so full and heavy, not like a guy who’s also playing the keyboard and constantly flipping his stick around to the mallet end.

I heard another example not long ago, when I listed to the Comedy Bang Bang episode featuring Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. Those guys’ brains seem to work in a different gear.


Photo by Vera & Jean-Christophe, used under Creative Commons license